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Smart spending on job search tools

Q. I have a limited budget for my job search. What services should I be paying for– LinkedIn upgrade, Ladders, ExecuNet, Industry networking meetings? I want to get a great job, but can’t go broke trying.

A. As new job seekers start the process, it is a good idea to evaluate your financial situation to see where you can tighten the budget to make sure you stay solvent throughout any length job search.

There are many services that can help job seekers in the process of finding the right job, and the key to deciding what to pay for and when to pass, is all about value. Spending money on services won’t guarantee finding a job faster or finding the right job. So before you pull out your wallet, know exactly what you need, and exactly what you’ll get. There are services who prey on job seekers worried about finding a job, and offer high pressure multipage agreements needing a signature to move ahead. No one can guarantee you a job. Do your research about any service you consider.

Outplacement services provided by the organization you are leaving are offered at no cost to you, and are a valuable benefit to be utilized. The scope of services include resume writing, targeting jobs, building contacts and a network, access to current job listings, interview training, developing an effective LinkedIn profile and more. Take advantage of this no cost benefit.

LinkedIn offers a great no cost service, which allows you to build and post a profile, connect with others, follow companies of interest, and lets people find you. Become an expert at how LI works, as this free level will support a very effective job search. If you believe you need to conduct more sophisticated searches, or send InMails to potential connections, consider the upgrade. Evaluate the benefit the upgrade provides, and revert to the free membership if you don’t see the value.

Job boards come in free formats and subscription styles with costs ranging from $25 a month to lower costs for longer services. Jobs that can be found online, are typically found in many places online. These sites compile jobs from many sites into one location and can save you online research time. Scanning many sites online can be an enormous waste of time, and job seekers may be deluded into thinking they are running an effective search because of the number of hours they are devoting to screening online jobs. The free sites are valuable, and you can create your own subscription style service by developing criteria on jobs you want to see and creating an RSS feed which sends jobs directly to your email. You don’t need to be a technology expert to learn how to make this happen.

Networking come in many varieties. Professional association meetings often offer discounted rates for job seekers. Utilize this benefit, and make sure you maximize attendance. There are networking groups charging fees. Go to an initial free meeting to see if you have a high comfort level with the group and their process. Be honest with yourself about your ability to network in a group. Networking takes more than showing up. If you invite people from your network to have coffee or lunch, be prepared to pay.

Continue to assess where you get value and results for your spend. Keep track of your job search expenses. They may be tax deductible.

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